Sat, Jun 08, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Hungary boat captain probed for earlier crash

AFP, BUDAPEST

An excavator fixed to a pontoon works on the Danube near Margaret Bridge in Budapest on Thursday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The captain of a Budapest river cruise ship involved in a deadly collision with a sightseeing boat last week is already under investigation over another accident in April, Hungarian prosecutors said on Thursday.

The death toll from the accident on Wednesday last week rose to 19 on Thursday after four more bodies were identified from the Hableany tourist boat, which sank seconds after colliding with the Viking Sigyn on a busy stretch of the Danube river.

After last week’s crash, the 64-year-old Ukrainian captain of the larger Viking Sigyn was arrested on suspicion of “endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths.”

Hungarian media reports said that the same man, identified only as Yuriy C., was being investigated over the collision of another ship, the Viking Idun, with a chemical tanker near the Dutch city of Terneuzen on April 1.

“He is being treated as a suspect in Holland,” the Budapest Metropolitan Chief Prosecutor’s Office told reporters in a statement, citing information from the EU judicial agency Eurojust, but without confirming the incident they were referring to.

In a statement sent to reporters on Thursday, Viking River Cruises said: “We can confirm that even though the captain of the Viking Sigyn was onboard the Viking Idun on April 1, he was not serving as the ship’s captain at the time of the incident.”

“We are unable to comment further while the investigations of both incidents are ongoing,” the statement added.

At the time of the April collision, the Viking Idun had 43 crew and 137 passengers on board. Several passengers were injured.

Dutch authorities are still investigating the circumstances of that collision.

Hungarian prosecutors on Thursday said the captain was suspected of “deleting data from his telephone after the collision” in Budapest.

The captain’s lawyers could not be reached for comment, but said in a statement issued on Friday last week that he was “devastated” by the accident and insisted that he did not make any errors.

Meanwhile, the death toll rose to 19 after the bodies of three more South Korean tourists and a Hungarian crewmember were identified, leaving nine people still missing from the occupants of the Hableany — eight South Koreans and another Hungarian crewmember.

Only seven people are known to have survived the accident.

Divers have been unable to enter the sunken boat due to a strong current in a river swollen after weeks of rain.

A barge carrying a crane powerful enough to lift the Mermaid on Wednesday arrived in Budapest, but was to remain docked in the north of the city until the river level subsides enough to allow it to pass under several bridges to reach the accident scene.

The crane was unlikely to begin the salvage operation before the weekend, experts said.

The Viking Sigyn left Budapest with on Friday last week, but Seoul has reportedly asked that the ship return to Budapest for the duration of the investigation.

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